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CHP Recommends Charges Against Golden Gate Bridge Jumper

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The south end of the Golden Gate Bridge with Fort Point in the foreground (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The south end of the Golden Gate Bridge with Fort Point in the foreground (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A California Highway Patrol spokesman said investigators have recommended misdemeanor charges against a Windsor high school student who survived a 220-foot  jump from the Golden Gate Bridge Thursday morning

CHP Officer Chris Rardin said the misdemeanor trespassing charge recommended entails climbing any rail, cable, suspender rope, tower or superstructure not intended for public use.

The offense is punishable by up to a year in county jail, a fine up to $10,000, or both.

The teen, who survived the 11 a.m fall from the South Tower area of the bridge, has been identified by friends on social media sites as 17-year-old Luhe “Otter” Vilagomez. School officials and the CHP have not confirmed his identity.

Rardin said the CHP does not believe the teen intended to commit suicide, but wants to ensure he is not at risk for further incidents.

“For that reason, the CHP Marin Area is recommending a medical/psychiatric evaluation by medical professionals,” Rardin said.

Windsor High School principal Mark Elin told two reporters who visited the campus Friday morning there is no indication from the other students who were on the field trip with the teen to San Francisco Thursday that the jump was a prank or was done on a dare.

The teen recently moved to the Windsor area and has attended Windsor High School since January, Elin said.

The 45 students in the school’s CORE humanities’ studies program were walking along the bridge before visiting the de Young museum, Windsor Unified School District Interim Superintendent William McDermott said.

Student Garrett Molsberry said Friday afternoon, “Everyone who heard the story or saw him jump said he did it for fun. He said he jumped off bridges before.”

Frederic Lecouturier, the 45-year-old San Rafael surfer who recovered the teen from the water and paddled him to the Fort Point shore on his board, said the teen told him he jumped “for kicks.”

Lecouturier said he was beneath the east side of the bridge looking up toward the west when he saw the teen’s body fall into the ocean about 25 yards away.

I said, oh, s—, this guy’s dead,” Lecouturier recalled.

Lecouturier said the teen was about 50 feet from the water when he first saw him. The teen fell feet first and his knees were slightly buckled when he hit the water, Lecouturier said.

The teen surfaced quickly and began swimming, and a strong south wind might have slowed his fall and enabled him to survive, Lecouturier said.

Lecouturier said he removed the teen’s shoes to increase his buoyancy.

“He said he was okay. He said he did it for kicks. I was angry and I went off on him. I said, ‘God gave you life and you’re playing with it like it’s nothing.’ He didn’t say anything,” Lecouturier said.

Lecouturier got the boy onto his surfboard and they both paddled toward Fort Point where emergency responders were already waiting, Lecouturier said.

The teen was taken to San Francisco General Hospital. The Windsor school district said he did not suffer severe injuries.

The teen is less than five feet tall and weighs about 120-125 pounds, Lecouturier said.

“He’s muscular, fit and light. A 200-pound boy would have drowned,” Lecouturier said.

“He’s a nice kid but all these kids live in virtual reality. They see people jumping from buildings and bridges and surviving. What was this kid thinking?” asked Lecouturier, who is the father of two teens.

“I don’t think he wanted to die,” Lecouturier said.

The surfer said he was also upset by the actions of Vilagomez’s classmates.

“They’re yelling like they’re watching some sort of roller coaster ride or something,” Lecouturier said. “I don’t know what they were thinking. Just yelling, maybe yelling out for other people to maybe go out and get him.”

But some of Vilagomez’s classmates who were with him on the bridge are telling CBS5 that nobody was encouraging him to jump.

“It was NOT a dare and no one was ‘egging him on,’” Hailee Zastrow, a Windsor High School senior wrote to CBS 5 in a Facebook message. “That is completely ridiculous and we are all extremely offended by that accusation. The students that were standing right next to him were trying to hold him back.”

Zastrow also refutes surfer Lecouturier’s observation that it looked like the students were “cheering” after he jumped.

On the contrary, Zastrow said the experience was “totally traumatizing” and that “everyone was hysterical and freaking out afterwards – not cheering,” she wrote. “None of us are that twisted.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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